Freshman Surprised By Opening Night Role

Running back Onterio McCalebb is off to an impressive start as an Auburn football player.

Auburn, Ala.--Onterio McCalebb just weighs 174 pounds, but he ran with surprising power in his college debut on Saturday night, racking up unexpected totals of 146 rushing yards and 22 carries.

In addition to becoming the first freshman running back to gain more than 100 yards in his Auburn debut since Bo Jackson did it vs. Wake Forest in 1982, McCalebb was named SEC Freshman of the Week.

McCalebb knew he was going to see action, but admits he didn't expect to see that much action in Auburn's 37-13 victory over Louisiana Tech.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't think I would have that many carries," he says. "I was expecting just to go in and get a couple carries here and there, and stuff like that."

It didn't take long for new Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to get the freshman fully involved in the offense. On play three of the season, McCalebb raced around right end for nine yards.

By the end of the first quarter, McCalebb had three carries for 16 yards.

At halftime he had more than doubled his rushing total with 40 yards on six carries.

After intermission the freshman's workload increased. He carried the ball 10 times in the third period for 56 more yards and added 50 yards on six fourth quarter runs while scoring his first collegiate touchdown.

"I couldn't have done it without my offensive line and everybody on offense blocking," he says. "They were blocking their tails off the whole night."

Onterio McCalebb

Although McCalebb isn't a big back by any standards, the freshman says a heavy work load doesn't bother him. "Once I get energized, I can run all day," he says.

McCalebb also notes that he isn't concerned about being undersized as an SEC running back despite weighing around 40 pounds less than Auburn's starting tailback, senior Ben Tate. He adds that he doesn't back down from physical play on the field and points out that he tells opponents, "Don't let the size fool you, I am coming at you at full speed."

Running backs coach Curtis Luper says he likes how the tailback handled himself in his first Auburn game and adds that he believes the freshman will improve throughout the season as he adjusts to the college game.

Commenting on what Luper told him after grading the game video, McCalebb says, "He told me I did a good job. I just have got to fix the little things here and there. Other than that, I did a good job."

McCalebb also returned two kickoffs for 49 yards for the Tigers and won praise from Chizik for his full-speed hustle on coverage teams, something the head coach notes the freshman has been doing in practice, too.

McCalebb and the Tigers open SEC play this Saturday with a home game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, a 45-7 winner over Jackson State on opening day. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium and the game will be televised regionally by Fox Sports Net South.

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